All About Surf Reports

Internet surf reports…

An amazing aspect of surfing is that the wave, our pursuit, is ever changing. The wave may change from season to season, day to day, hour by hour, and even from each different set that comes in. This page will help you to be able to read the most amazing tool in surfing since the addition of the fin, the online surf forecast.

This is not an exact science, , it is a prediction, an educated guess. Humans have more knowledge about the surface of the moon than they do about the surface of the ocean. So if this information can only take you so far. In time you will be able to make your own predictions while using a variety of tools at your disposal. I personally use surf forecasting sites, buoy reports, weather radars, wind reports, & moon phases to make my predictions. I consider myself a "Wave Geek" & proud of it!

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The data could aslo be fed into your own Surf/Wind Forecast website. With some knowledge of how to read a buoy you could be a Surf Report Guru!

Here is the local buoy I read to make my wave forecast for Cabarete, Dominican Republic.

Using a buoy reading confirms just how big or small an incoming swell might be. Opposed to a Surf Report/forecast/prediction says what a swell might be. There is no no crying wolf here, but at first glance the information might as well be in Greek.

Who has the time to be reading buoys? We want information fast, accurate, & on the go! Below is all the info you need to read a standard Surf/Wind Forecast.

When I was growing up we would call for surf reports or listen to a buoy report on a weather radio. Nowadays we get to check the waves via surf forecasting/reporting sites and my personal favorite to check the surf is Beach Webcams.

Heck if you wanted you can download an app and check the surf while your grabbing your morning coffee en route. But looking at a surf report can be confusing if you don't have some basic ocean knowledge.

A surf report can be broken down into four basic elements that can be computed. These elements are swell height & direction, the interval or period, tides, & local winds. The fifth & equally important factor which a computer cannot tell is what Types of Breaks an incoming swell will break on. Beach Breaks, Point Breaks, & Reef Breaks.

Let's take a look at a forcast given by the popular MagicSeaweed® of my home break Encuentro Beach Cabarete, the Dominican Republic:

Wave Height

Let's fist check the wave height, because the number one thing you hear is "how big is it going to be?" This information is interrupted from offshore weather & wave buoys. On Wednesday 9/7 the height (ht) will be 4 feet. It is located in the third column. This number is take from the average height of the waves that pass a weather and wave buoy. Just because it says "4ft" it does not mean that waves with 4 foot faces will be breaking that day, the other factors are at play here. Wave direction, period, & local winds need to be all in order as well.

Wave Period

Directly next to the wave height we have swell period. The period is the average time between each wave as it passes the buoy. The higher the period the cleaner, stronger, & bigger the wave will be at your local break! On 9/7 it will be 11 seconds. Not a bad day, but nothing epic. It is was 4 feet at 6 seconds, I would hit the snooze button, but if it was 4 at 17 seconds I would call in sick to work & grab my big wave gun! Wave height is where everyone looks, but wave period is your money shot!

Swell Direction

The fifth column tells me where I am going to surf, the swell direction. Encuentro is a great wave on an east swell. Encuentro doesn't except a north swell that well, it closes out a lot. A couple of the breaks there work but it is not a sure thing. I live on the north coast, which means that a north swell will awaken some super sweet waves without too many people (or no one) on them. On Wed. 9/7 the swell will be coming quite north. But it looks like Friday 9/9 I will heading back to Encuentro, when the swell turns back east.

Local Winds

The next column over plays a huge factor in my hometown of Cabarete, The Wind. Cabarete is known for Kitesurfing & Windsurfing.

Which means it is windy here often. This report says that the wind at it's height for Wednesday 9/7 will be 10 miles per hour (mph). This can be misleading. Most mornings it'll be glassy with no wind. Glassy conditions are when there is not a even a breath of wind and the water resembles panes of glass. To get an accurate forecast of local winds I use WindAlert The last column on the page tells which direction the wind is coming from. This can play a factor of how the wave will break as well. Offshore is ideal, because it can hold the lip of the wave up and can create a hollow tube or a nice peeling wave with a long face. Here is a live wind observation for Kite Beach which is about 2 miles away.


The last factor that is part of a good surf report/forecast is the local tides. Tides regulate the size, the quality, speed, and in many cases if there will be a wave at all. Favorable tides are dependent of the surf spot. Some spots work better at low tide, as the reverse is true. The best way to find out how tides affect your local spot is to ask other surfers & go experience it yourself.

*Special note for beginners: Just because all the factors in a surf report or forecast are not present to make a perfect wave, doesn't mean that you can't go out and have a great day surfing. I spent much of my first two years surfing in the white water. Here I perfected my pop-up, dialed in my balance, tried a variety of boards, and had an absolute blast

The right hand column has live Surf Reports from both MagicSeaweed & Surfline Surf Reports. Click on them to us them for your local break.

Surfing is more than a past time. It is a lifestyle. If you are interested in more information click the the link.

For more information on all other water sports please checkout the rest of my website... Enjoy the Ride!

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